Everyone approaches an eCommerce integration project for different reasons, but regardless of the purpose, the integration strategy is a crucial aspect of the process. When discussing an integration strategy, the technical aspects fall away and the focus is on the business strategy. Who will own what data and which data processes? Answering these questions helps to prevent inefficiencies throughout the project due to miscommunication and logic duplication. The best way to go about planning an integration strategy is to focus on the Golden Rules of Integration: keep the business logic where it belongs, don’t duplicate data unless you know why and use an integration methodology that’s appropriate for the project.
Integrating Magento to an ERP system is not simply a technical exercise; it is about strategy, business logic and the related business processes.
Why Should You Integrate?
One of the most common reasons for an ERP integration project with Magento is to automate the process. By automating the sharing of data between systems, you are significantly reducing the chance of human intervention and error. This allows employees to deal with errors on an exception basis rather than a dual bases. When the highest percentage of sales happens seamlessly, human intervention only occurs when a problem arises. This leaves the customer service team to focus on actual customer service and complex orders, as opposed to mundane order taking.
Another benefit for your customer service team is that integrating Magento with your ERP system brings down the call volume to your CSR desk. For B2B organizations especially, 50% of callers are asking for the price of an item, its availability, or the status of an order. By doing a full renovation of your eCommerce site, these questions are answered online instead of being fielded by your customer service representatives.
Automation also allows for an easier scale process for your eCommerce site. If, for example, your team ramps up your marketing efforts on the site that successfully drives more traffic, there is not necessarily more work created for employees. Because you don’t have to worry about aspects such as dual maintenance, it is easy to scale your site to accommodate new traffic.
By taking human intervention out of the equation, your company can increase efficiency and drive cost out of the organization. Without the hassle of dual maintenance, there is one source of the truth and less room for human error. By integrating Magento with the ERP, you are allowing customer service representatives to focus on customer service instead of menial tasks.
The Golden Rules of Integration
From an integration strategy perspective, the Golden Rules of Integration must be followed:
Who owns the business logic? It is most common for the ERP System to own and manage the inventory and related inventory availability.
Who owns the data (and when)? Again, it is most common for the ERP system to own the data around Inventory Availability. This gets tricky when the timing of transactions is concerned. When does the inventory get decremented in the ERP? How timely is the data passed or access from Magento? These are key considerations when designing the integration. Another key decision is whether the inventory availability is checked in ‘real time’ from Magento, or whether a batch update pushes inventory to Magento. Then, if the inventory balances are pushed periodically, the next decision is how often.
What is the right integration tool for the project? The decisions on the timing of the integration determine the best integration tool. Generally, it’s best to use a tool set that is already in use within the organization. This minimizes the learning curve and allows the support team to use tools already in use. If there is not a tool already in place, or the existing tool does not support the integration requirement, then a new tool is selected.
Integrating Magento to the back end ERP system (like Oracle’s JDE system) requires a thorough review of goals of the project. Our standard integration strategy looks at ten different integration points and related business logic and processes. The goals of each project determine which integration point is needed, and how it is used within the overall project. Typically, our project use four to six integration points, but we have had projects with only one or two, and projects using all ten.
A good example of integration point is Inventory Availability. The first business decision to be made is whether or not the eCommerce site should expose inventory availability to the shoppers. Frankly, not every eCommerce site does, and there are a few different methods for sharing this information. Some sites show the actual number of products available, while others share a red, yellow or green light to indicate availability. Another option is to simply provide an ‘In Stock’ or ‘Out of Stock’ flag on the site. These business decisions drive the type of integration required, and how timely the update needs to be.
Integrating Magento to an ERP system can be a daunting project. There are many moving parts and the project can get complicated quickly. However, by defining the strategy up front and following a few golden rules, the project quickly becomes a series of smaller tasks. Only then should any code be written.
To discuss your integration needs, contact us. Or, read more below about how we have implemented a Magento to JDE integration for a client.